Leawood approves plan for ‘all-inclusive’ playground at Leawood City Park

A rendering of the new playground approved for Leawood City Park. Rendering by Cunningham Recreation.
A rendering of the new playground approved for Leawood City Park. Rendering by Cunningham Recreation.

By Jerry LaMartina

Leawood City Park is on its way to a new, “all-inclusive” playground to replace its existing one.

The Leawood City Council unanimously approved the Leawood Parks & Recreation Department’s revised final plan for the roughly $450,000 playground at the council’s Monday night meeting. The playground’s installation is scheduled for completion in early December, Parks & Recreation Director Chris Claxton said.

All-inclusive playgrounds are based on a concept called “social equity” and are intended to enable children – and adults – to play together regardless of their physical or mental abilities, Claxton said. The new playground will include stations designed to enable adults to better interact with the children while playing together.

The 66-acre park, at 106th Street and Lee Boulevard, already meets accessibility requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, as do the city’s five other parks, Claxton said.

The Leawood Foundation has raised more than $287,000 for the project and seeks to raise another $160,000 from individuals, trusts and nonprofit foundations, she said. The money raised so far includes $50,000 contributed by the City of Leawood, and the roughly $85,000 value of the playground’s two main structures – one for children ages 2 to 5 and another for ages 5 to 12 – donated by Cunningham Recreation, based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Cunningham Recreation also will demolish the current playground and install the new one, at no charge. The company is required to meet its own deadlines on the project, which Claxton said puts the project “a little bit on the fast track.”

Ward 1 Councilman Andrew Osman emphasized the importance of letting the public know that more money was needed for the project.

“The importance of this playground is making sure that we don’t separate people – adults and children – into different spaces,” Claxton said.

The new playground’s features include:

  • A spongy surface designed to accommodate people who use mobility devices and those who might have trouble walking on uneven surfaces, such as toddlers, the elderly and people with injuries.
  • A freestanding double zip line to accommodate all children.
  • Belt swings, toddler swings, high-back swings for children with muscular problems and a disk swing that enables children to swing together.
  • A “sensory-rich environment,” which includes panels and musical elements.
  • Ramp-accessibility to all platforms.
  • And climbers and slides designed to challenge children regardless of their abilities.

Ward 3 Councilwoman Lisa Harrison asked Claxton whether the old playground could be recycled and used elsewhere in the city. Claxton said she was looking into that possibility and the possibility of sending the old equipment outside the United States for reuse.